The USS Jeannette set off in search of the North Pole in 1879. Manned in large part by men who had just missed the “glory” of service in the Civil War, the expedition boasted the latest innovations, including Edison’s lights and Bell’s telephones, and was spurred on by scientific theories that the Kuro Siwo, a Pacific equivalent to the Gulf Stream current, would sweep the ship effortlessly north to a temperate polar sea. Unsurprisingly, this was not their experience.
Instead, the Jeannette was locked in a vice of pack ice for two years before its hull was crushed, and the expedition was left to make its way 1,000 miles across more ice and unexplored territory to Siberia—before winter, and before their provisions would run out. At one of the lowest points in their journey, they learned that despite days of grueling slog to the south, hauling their boats, the drift of the floating ice over which they were travelling had dragged them north, even farther from rescue than when they started.
Author Sides delves into the background of the expedition, setting the usual narrative of cold and deprivation in its Gilded Age context. Vivid descriptions, many from the letters and journals of the men involved, add to the account.
Possibly the most striking character in this story wasn’t even on the expedition: financier James Gordon Bennett, Jr., editor of the New York Herald, whose journalist was embedded with the crew. In a book filled with colorful personalities, Bennett is still, as Sides writes, “spectacularly weird,” having once abducted a musical theater company, broken off an engagement by urinating into his prospective in-laws’ grand piano, and boosted newspaper circulation by printing a fake story about New Yorkers mauled by escaped zoo animals in Central Park (“A Shocking Sabbath Carnival OF DEATH!”)
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Mitch Albom, author of the best-seller Tuesdays with Morrie, continues to write inspirational books exploring faith and humanity. I find his books easy to read with simple plots and sympathetic characters, but each also has a message that lingers.
The First Phone Call from Heaven takes place in a small Michigan town. One morning three different people receive phone calls from family members who have passed away. A short conversation–maybe just a phrase–but sending the message that they were communicating from heaven.
That same day Sullivan Harding is released from prison.
The plot jumps from the history of the telephone to Sully’s story of why he went to prison to the growing interest in these heavenly phone calls.
Sully is is trying to carve out a normal life–a life shared with his young son, Julian, but without his beloved wife; a life as an ex-convict, not a respected Navy pilot. The calls intersect directly with Sully when Julian starts questioning when he is going to get a message from his mom. Julian doesn’t see the difference between Sully going away to prison and coming back, and his mom dying and not coming back. Sully determines to get to the bottom of where these calls are really coming from so his son doesn’t hold out false hope for his mom’s return.
Meanwhile the calls themselves are gaining national attention. A small-time reporter gets the first interview with a women who received a call from her deceased sister. The video goes viral, throwing the small town into chaos as more and more people come to witness the miracle phone calls.
The plot reminds me a little bit about the movie Heaven is for Real, which Chris reviewed a few weeks ago. The phone calls are either real or a complete hoax depending on what you believe. Albom explores the ramifications from many different angles–the individuals receiving the calls, the religious community, the news outlets, the believers, the unbelievers, the curious. And like I said, it will leave you thinking long after you finish the book.
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Have you ever wondered what bats do at night, while all the humans are in bed? Bats at the Beach has an answer! In this enchanting, beautifully-illustrated story by Brian Lies, readers enter a world where, while everyone else is sound asleep, bats have fun at the beach. Read about how bats need their “moon-tan lotion” and how they love to eat “salted ‘skeeters” and toast “bug-mallows.” The illustrations add details to this unique bat world, as bats make kites by tying strings to themselves and chat upside-down at the “snack bar”: a ceiling where all the tasty bugs gravitate toward the light bulb. The illustrations also demonstrate how the bats don’t let their small size get in the way of having fun–they make swords out of straws and use food containers as boats. Since the illustrations are so intricate, this book is better for a one-on-one read, and while the bright, glossy pictures should captivate any audience, older readers will best appreciate the bat-related humor.
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Melissa shares this review:
If you enjoy television shows like Criminal Minds or CSI or Cold Case, or any of the many TV dramas that involve solving criminal cases in an hour, you should pick up the YA novel The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.
Cassie is a 17-year-old with a gift for reading people. At the beginning of the book she’s working in a diner using her gift of picking up subtle details to figure out what kind of eggs a customer might order, or if they are likely to skip on the check. She catches the attention of an FBI agent named Briggs who has developed an experimental program that uses gifted teens to help solve cold cases.
He asks Cassie to join his group of “naturals” so she can develop her skills. Cassie doesn’t have anything to lose. Her dad is serving overseas in the military and her mother, who taught her much of what she knows about reading people, was murdered years ago. With little to keep her in Denver with her grandmother and the hope that maybe she can learn something about her mother’s unsolved murder, she agrees to join the eclectic group and work for the FBI.
The “naturals” live together in a house in Quantico, Virginia, near FBI headquarters. She meets Michael, the handsome rebel who reads emotions, but doesn’t like to be read himself; Dean, the other profiler, who is the son of a convicted murderer; Lia, who specializes in deception and sarcasm; and Sloane, the computer nerd whose gift is numbers and probability. The characters are easy to distinguish and likeable–if also somewhat stereotypical.
The plot moved along quickly and kept me entertained. Interspersed with the training exercises and the teens getting to know one another (in part through a risky game of “Truth or Dare”) are chilling chapters from a serial killer–a killer who seems to be escalating in the number and brutality of murders… a killer who targets Cassie as the next victim.
The Naturals is listed as the first in a series. Stay on the lookout for the sequel.
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Eileen Christelow’s famous five little monkeys wake up early to bake Mama a birthday cake. They keep reminding each other, “Sh-h-h! Don’t wake up Mama!” But they soon have to deal with one noisy disaster after the next: somebody sneezes, one little monkey slips on spilled oil, the cake even burns and sets off the fire alarm! Will the monkeys’ crazy antics wake up Mama and spoil the surprise? Also, a surprise twist at the end makes the story even more fun!
Kids and parents alike will delight in seeing kids who are eager to help around the house, but who don’t always yield the best results. Preschoolers will benefit from the frequent repetition in the story, and the monkeys’ shenanigans and the frequent sound effects make this book great for a story time setting.
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Rachael shares this review:
Ender is a gifted child selected at age 6 to train to be a space soldier, battling alien forces in zero gravity. He is sent to battle school with other prodigies and must learn not only to battle but how to strategize and lead others. I thought this book was amazing. It poses big social questions about war and violence: making violence a game, making soldiers of children, breeding violence with violence, striking first and asking questions later, and the loss of innocence, among other things. A lot of the themes reminded me of Slaughterhouse Five and Full Metal Jacket. This can be enjoyed by young adults, but I think will become more and more meaningful as the reader ages (this is the same reason I went back and read S.E. Hinton in my 20s even though I read it in 7th grade). This book does just as much in what it doesn’t say as what it does – don’t be fooled by the simple style and the Star Wars geek appeal. This is one of the best books I’ve read, and the movie was pretty decent, too.
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If you read this blog regularly, and I hope you do, you may notice that I like to read about politics. Strangely enough, Stephen King, who I really like, wrote a book about politics and my first response to it was less than enthusiastic. I read it again a few years later, and it really drew me in. Just goes to show that the same book won’t be the same every time you read it. Since then, I reread it several times and it’s one I suggest to people when they dismiss King as just another scary writer.
The basic story: John Smith is a young teacher, a nice guy falling in love with a nice girl. Then an accident puts him into a coma, and years of that good life just melt away, along with all its possibilities. When he recovers, he has gained a frightening ability. Just by touching something or someone at an emotional moment, he gets flashes—visions of the past, intuitions of the present, knowledge of the future. Some might think it a wonderful power, except he can’t turn it off and can’t get people to believe him.
Johnny has no idea what he is to do with this ability and no interest in exploiting it. He wants to go back to teaching, to pay off his enormous hospital bills, and to find that nice girl he’s still in love with, but word of his ability spreads and he becomes infamous. He also becomes sensitive to the reluctance that people—even the ones he loves?—feel towards touching him. And through a powerful experience he learns that he does have a purpose, even if it isn’t one he believes or wants. He sets off on his own to avoid it and to rebuild the wreck of his life.
Johnny’s story is populated with memorable characters: Sarah Bracknell, his girl; Greg Stillson, the ambitious salesman intent on riding the winds of change; Sam Weizak, Johnny’s doctor and friend; Sonny Ellison, a reformed biker; Sheriff George Bannerman, a desperate cop; and Chuck Chatsworth, the student Johnny finally connects with. Each becomes a reminder to Johnny that he cannot escape his purpose and it becomes more and more apparent that this good and sensitive man is the only person able to prevent an apocalypse.
Politics is the background Johnny’s struggle is illuminated against. From the radical disturbances of the early Seventies to the post-Watergate cynicism of the American public, Johnny is a witness to public life. The story becomes a lesson in political history as told through the eyes of a time traveler adrift in a culture he doesn’t recognize. People have become personalities, character has become charisma, ideas have become ideologies. But Johnny’s struggle is an eternal one—can the ends ever justify the means?
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Capitalism is great. When it works, it transfers money from people willing to take risks to people who have risks worth taking. Sure, the eventual payoff to both is in proportion to the risk, and the risk is in proportion to the vision, but the overall purpose is to move idle money to the places that can put it to use. Capitalism is great. When it works.
And then there are the parasites.
In Flash Boys, Michael Lewis tells the story of a bunch of regular guys who decided to drag one group of parasites into the light so the markets could understand how and why they had become hosts. The parasites had a simple business model. Someone sends out an offer to buy United Widgets at $1.00, the parasite would see his offer, and go buy the available shares at $1.00. Then he’d offer them to the buyer for $1.01. A penny a share of pure profit, no risk, no real value added. But how did he see the spread between the two?
He figured out that placing his computer server just a little closer to the server that executes trades would buy enough lag time that he could spot the opening and get the jump on real investors. The smart guy and his cronies started at milliseconds and wrung every angle until they were down to beating legitimate investors by nanoseconds. These weren’t the small-time investors, either—institutional investors managing billions of dollars couldn’t figure out why they were constantly paying higher prices when the computer said right there that they should have gotten it for less. They’d scratch their heads and pay the higher cost.
But there were people in the system who caught on to the parasites. Instead of cashing their knowledge in for a few million bucks, these regular guys decided they were going to put the markets back on an equal footing. (Well, as equal as it could be.) There are too many for me to credit in this post, but basically they were organized and inspired by Brad Katsuyama, a low-key guy working for the low-key Royal Bank of Canada. For my money (what’s left of it after the markets got hold of it), he should be recognized as a genuine hero. But his discovery about lag time was only the tip of the fraud, and his real courage came out when he brought his findings and his solutions to those institutional investors. Their reaction—and the way he finally convinced them that he had a viable solution—shows that sometimes heroism doesn’t happen in a flash. Heroism takes work.
As for the parasites? A friend once told me, “Bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered.” When I look around, it seems that the parasites, and the pigs, are actually doing better than everyone else. Capitalism is great. When it works.
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Robert Munsch has created another laugh-out-loud adventure that kids of all ages will love. Moira can’t wait for her birthday, and is so excited for her party that she wants to invite everyone in grades one through six, and kindergarten. But her parents say, “That’s crazy!” and that she can only invite six kids. But everyone at school who hasn’t been invited begs her to let them come too, and Moira just can’t say no to anyone…
So sure enough, on the day of her party, everyone in grades one through six, plus kindergarten, shows up at her house. At first it seems like a disaster–when Moira tries to order two-hundred pizzas and birthday cakes, everyone tells her, “THAT’S CRAZY!” Plus, after the fiasco is finally over, she ends up with way too many presents and food. Now Moira has to figure out a way to get rid of everything.
While the story’s crazy antics will hold the attention of all age levels, the book’s repetitive style will benefit younger readers with counting practice. Everything about this book is lively, from the all-caps quotations to the illustrations that show all the chaos that Moira’s party creates, making Moira’s Birthday a fun large-group read.
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It’s an easy comparison: picture Paris Hilton getting out of prison ten years after murdering her own mother. Even better, she’s only free because the LAPD forensics lab screwed up evidence collection in a bunch of cases, so she doesn’t even have the shelter of a presumption of innocence. Swap Paris for the fictional Janie Jenkins, and you’ve got the premise for Dear Daughter.
With her conviction overturned, Janie wants to do two things: hide from the paparazzi and crime shows and blogs, and find out whether or not she killed her mother. True, they had a rotten relationship, and yes, Janie had stolen some expensive stuff, and she was found in the closet of an adjoining room, covered with her mother’s blood. Oh, and her mother had written Janie’s name in her own blood on the wall just before she died. Not even the Dream Team could get her off that one.
With the help of her faithful and hunky appellate lawyer Noah, she grabs handfuls of cash from her inheritance and sets out to disappear. She’s got exactly one clue to go on, one way to lose the rabid searchers, and one chance to clear her name. Off into flyover country she heads, towards Wisconsin (!). Or so Noah thinks.
Janie finds a way to get to the one place that might offer some answers, but has to completely transform her personality to fool the locals. Plus, she’s deliberately deceived Noah, to his increasing consternation. And a sensationalist blogger has turned his reader base into a nationwide dragnet, and they’re getting closer to finding her. Time is running out.
What Janie learns confounds her. She knew her mother was a gold digger intent on turning Janie into a retro 20th-century heiress, but she had no idea how much of a gold digger she was. She knew her mother had no family, but Janie learns why she was alone in the world. And she learns what her mother really thought of the child who derailed her plans for success.
There isn’t much more I can say, because the plot becomes so twisty that to proceed would untangle the whole thing, and you’d miss out on the fun. The best part of the book is Janie herself—deeply sarcastic, seemingly superficial, struggling to hide her killer persona under the mask of a meek academic. And traumatized, institutionalized, and full of self-doubt as she tries to understand why she’s still running, and where it will get her.
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One of the few mortals at Mount Olympus Academy, Pandora is famous for her mega quizzical nature—not that she thinks there’s anything wrong with being curious, of course!
Her curiosity kicks into high gear when a godboy named Epimetheus brings a mysterious box to school. Epimetheus is the nephew of an MOA teacher in whose class Pandora once opened another box that sent a few weather disasters to earth. Still, Pandora can’t help but take a peek inside this new box when it unexpectedly lands in her lap. What could be the harm in that, right? Little does she know that opening the box will open up far more trouble than she ever expected! – Book Summary
Pandora the Curious is a book in the “Goddess Girls” series. The story surrounds Pandora and her quest to save her friends from the horrors inside a mysterious box she opened. I love how the characters work with all the old Greek mythology stories. Altogether it was a fun read that was enjoyable.
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It’s a staple of spy thrillers that your friends are sometimes as dangerous, if not more so, than your enemies. After all, the main survival mechanism in espionage is paranoia. Is this colleague a spy? Is that one undermining my missions, going rogue, or threatening my budget? Is the agent from an allied power spying on me? The advent of women in both real world and fiction espionage has increased that problem geometrically and given thriller writers a new topic to explore.
Could woman, that most domesticated and docile of creatures, turn on her former masters and take her revenge in ways a man can’t comprehend?
That’s the problem that dominates the minds of the top administrators at Vauxhall Cross, headquarters of Britain’s MI6. A new chief has been named, and it’s (gasp) a woman! Amanda Levene has mastered every challenge at MI6 and has succeeded to the office no woman has ever held before. Well, some of the old boys say, it’s political correctness. Others say that she’s a lightweight incapable of shifting her parochial interests to the larger picture. Some hint that maybe she’s slept her way to the top. In short, every rationalization successful women everywhere have faced is thrown at Levene, with the added element that these resentful men have the intelligence resources of an entire nation ready to take her down.
Unfortunately, they have ammunition. Six weeks before taking the chair, she’s disappeared, taking with her the highest-level knowledge the agency has. And those who may or may not be loyal to her can’t turn their assets loose to find her without airing the dirty laundry. So they go outside MI6 to recruit their searcher.
Thomas Kell is perfect for the job. One of the most experienced field agents they had, he was let go in the wake of a prisoner torture scandal in Afghanistan. For seven months he’s drifted along, promising himself that he’ll start writing that book, that he’ll apply for that security job, that he’ll take up a hobby. But his days have passed in drinking and feuding with his estranged wife. So the prospect of going back out into the field is his shot at personal and perhaps professional redemption, and without bureaucrats peeking over his shoulder he has a chance at doing the job his way.
Using whatever assets he can muster, Kell picks up Levene’s trail and follows it to a surprising end, one which offers an understandable explanation for her disappearance, but also carries within it the potential for destroying Levene’s career. And in clearing up some of the minor details, he turns up a far deeper threat than anyone, including Levene, can imagine.
The path Cummings creates in finding Levene is interesting and somewhat exciting, filled with the kind of tactical planning and surveillance that espionage thriller readers have come to expect. He also mixes in a group of secondary characters who provide some comic relief in their efforts to help Kell, and does a brilliant job describing Kell’s journey across the Mediterranean aboard an overnight ferry crossing. But once the main plot takes off, A Foreign Country moves into the big time, and Cummings handles both plotting and characterization with confidence. Plus he shows that a woman can unquestionably do the job as well as any man.
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Laura shares this review:
The 1963 Newberry-award winning novel, A Wrinkle in Time, was a favorite of mine as a child. There was something so gently compelling about the storyline and I could relate so deeply to main character. Teenager Meg Murry doesn’t fit in, in school or seemingly anywhere else. She’s smart but stubborn, and fiercely protective of her family, even with its complete lack of normalcy. She is especially combative when anyone speaks badly about Charles Wallace, her youngest brother, who is definitely an odd child. Their father is missing, and his unexplained disappearance haunts the family, and leads Meg to be even more belligerent as she struggles to deal with the loss and the emptiness of not knowing what happened to him.
Although it has been many years since I last read A Wrinkle in Time, I was immediately swept back into the adventures had by Meg, Charles, their neighbor Calvin, with the Misses Whatsit, Who, and Which guiding them along their journey throughout the universe to save Mr. Murry from the terrible blackness that envelops him. The story, to use the words of Mrs. Murry, requires a willing suspension of disbelief, but the relationship between Meg and her brother Charles Wallace is poignant, and the storyline flows smoothly and quickly.
This work, adapted and illustrated by Eisner Award-winning artist Hope Larson, is the first time the iconic story has been presented in a graphic novel format. The illustrations are deceptively simple, and use a limited color palette of black, white, and sky blue. The blue hue serves to soften the starkness of the images, giving a dreamlike mood to the rapidly shifting number of worlds that they visit. Night and day have no definition here, as fighting the darkness without losing yourself or those you love is the only thing that matters.
This book is appropriate for all ages, but is especially recommended to fantasy readers and anyone who wants to revisit an old favorite from their childhood.
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There’s no easy way to put this. Chris Bohjalian has written a book that is almost too difficult to read. Not because of the language, which is spot on. Not because of the characters, which ring true. Not because of the structure, which easily shifts between past and present. Not because of the plot, which is both frighteningly plausible and the everyday experience of too many people. When you add them all up, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands becomes unbearable even as Bohjalian demands that you bear witness.
The setup is simple enough. A 16-year old girl, rebellious and unfocused, has nonstop fights with her parents and well-meaning but ineffectual teachers. She’s fairly new to the area, having been dragged to northeast Vermont by her parents’ jobs, and she hasn’t made the transition well. The only thing she’s got going for her is her love of Emily Dickinson. (Side note Emily shares with us—take any Emily Dickinson poem and sing it to the theme from Gilligan’s Island. Perfect match!) Then the nuclear power plant where her parents work suffers a catastrophe, and Emily Shepard, with thousands of others, is forced to evacuate. Unlike them, she carries the burden of her name, because her father is blamed for the disaster.
Emily makes her way to Burlington, where she stays on the edges of the relief efforts, unable to make up a coherent story. Eventually the aid runs out and Emily is forced onto her own. She has few options, so her life quickly spirals out of control. She finds shelter wherever she can, stealing clothes and food and turning tricks at the local truck stop for cash. Other homeless girls give her advice, but one especially changes Emily’s life when she teaches Emily how to cut herself. The catharsis that this self-punishment brings doesn’t last, but razor blades and Bactine are cheap and plentiful.
Emily experiences an awakening when she finds a nine-year-old runaway boy and takes him under her wing. Cameron has been shuffled from one foster home to the next and suffered one beating too many, so he’s set out on his own. She makes it look like he’s in the company of a responsible adult, and helps provide little extras, like food, to him. In turn, he teaches Emily how to build an igloo out of trash bags stuffed with leaves, and the two live together on the lake ice with other homeless people. But the lake won’t stay frozen forever; nor can Emily keep Cameron forever. Eventually Emily is drawn home, traveling into the radioactive zone that surrounds the plant.
The meltdown offers a metaphor, a reason why a seemingly privileged kid would set out to live in squalor and degradation. It unfortunately stands in for the conditions that cause so many teens to run away from home and cast themselves into a world where no one ultimately cares if they live. Bohjalian doesn’t spare the reader any of the details of that life. It is a life he is too familiar with, working as he does with community agencies that serve homeless teens in his town. It’s a life he opens our eyes to, even when we want to close them.
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Finklehopper Frog can’t wait to go on a picnic…until he starts to worry that people there will bully him and grab his special pork-pie hat. Fortunately, Finklehopper decides to face his fear. He learns a lot of valuable lessons about teamwork and how to treat others along the way. When bullies make fun of his hat, his friend Ruby Rabbit responds with kindness, and the bullies back down. Later, when Ruby comes in second place to Sue Kangaroo in the big race and starts crying, Finklehopper finds a way to remind everyone about what it means to be a good sport.
This book’s bright illustrations and simple, rhyming prose make it great for a group out-loud read. Finklehopper Frog Cheers is a great story for preschoolers because it reminds readers that when people are kind and play fair, everyone can win.
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As the creepy little town of Nightshade prepares to celebrate its 200th anniversary—on Halloween, of course—many of its paranormal residents are receiving mysterious blackmail letters. Psychic teen Daisy Giordano and her sisters set out to find out who is behind the threats. But launching an investigation isn’t easy for Daisy with her overprotective father watching her every move. Though she’s is happy to have him back after the years he spent being held captive by an anti-paranormal group called the Scourge, Dad is having difficult time adjusting to home life—and the fact that his little girl is now a senior in high school. He even disapproves of Daisy’s boyfriend, Ryan. Can their relationship take the strain?
And Daisy’s got even more on her plate: A talented amateur chef, she has won cooking lessons with celebrity chef Circe Silvertongue. After nosing around (with a little help from Circe’s pet pig), Daisy begins to suspect the temperamental chef’s secrets aren’t only in her ingredients. . . . – Book Summary
Picking up after Daisy’s complicated Summer, book 4 of the “Dead Is” series begins at the start of Daisy’s senior year of high school.
The main character, Daisy, starts the book a little out of her usual character. As you go along through the book, the reader will find that Daisy has undergone a bit of a character change. Of course, this being her final year of high school, Daisy starts to panic about where her and her long-term boyfriend, Ryan, will stand after they graduate. This, being the side plot in the story, gives the reader a short struggle to follow.
The main plot, which is more focused on mystery than drama, is that Nightshade’s more supernatural members are being blackmailed. This plot is constantly rising until the very last moments, giving it a true resolution.
My favorite parts of this book are the minor conflicts and characters. Although at times with such a fast-paced book you leave such minor things behind, this author doesn’t. The author keeps you in touch with every character, from the main character, Daisy, to Daisy’s neighbor Sean.
Altogether, this book is a four star story. The one missing star is only because the transitions from the personal plot to the mystery are sometimes poorly done. However, the characters were all believable, the plot wasn’t too fast-paced, and the side characters and minor plots were amazing.
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Big Data: A revolution that will transform how we live, work, and think, by Viktor Mayer-Schonburger and Kenneth Cukier
I was watching a TV show called Blacklist when the main character started talking about “Big Data” and how someone with the right skills can find out just about anything about anybody and track them. I had only a vague idea what this meant.
What is “Big Data” and why should we care? I turned to the library for answers.
The authors of Big Data interpret this to mean processing vast amounts of stored data very quickly in a way that can’t be done on a smaller scale. Algorithms applied to this data have a predictive capability that will “change markets, organizations, the relationship between citizens and governments and more.”
This book develops that concept in a very understandable way with interesting examples of how our world had already changed by the large amount of data stored.
A positive example of the way big data has already helped consumers is Farecast, which predicts when air fare will be cheapest to buy. And future ways big data may benefit humanity is by predicting where outbreaks of disease will occur.
The negative implications of the predictive quality of “Big Data” are thought provoking (think of the movie Minority Report). Not only does everything we do on the Internet never go away, but that information can be analyzed over and over again for different purposes without our knowledge or consent. Even if the data is anonymized, it can still be traced back to a single individual!
The authors state that the amount of data will continue to grow along with our ability to process it. It is “the dark side of big data” that I found most alarming – more surveillance of our lives, less protection of privacy, and loss of anonymity. I found myself marking sections in the book and going back to re-read it. It also sparked a lot of discussion in my book group. Technology is a part of all our lives whether we love it or hate it and this book was a fascinating peek into our future.
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If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, is it really a duck? Author Judy Hindley has created an endearing story about the lives of ducks. A momma duck and her ducklings are off on a fun day of duck-y things. Suddenly a stranger who claims to be just like them greets them and he makes every effort to prove it to the duck family. The momma’s suspicions are raised; however, she gives this stranger several chances to show that he is truly a genuine duck. As their day unfolds, the strangers eating habits, interests, and even quacks don’t quite add up and his true intentions are discovered. Momma duck has a wonderful solution to prove once and for all that he is not a duck and sends the stranger on his way with the comfort of knowing she had known the truth the whole time.
This light-hearted story has beautiful, large illustrations with bright colors that will keep the interest of even the littlest reader. Another wonderful quality of this book is its use of onomatopoeia. Every action the ducks take or sound they make, a child can easily mimic. This adds an energetic and interactive aspect to the story. This is perfect for any size group story sharing for a younger age bracket. So, get ready to have a room of little ducklings as you bring the story of Do Like a Duck Does to life.
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A hinterland is defined as the often uncharted areas beyond a coastal district or a river’s banks, or an area lying beyond what is visible or known. In the new Welsh detective series, Hinterland, the characters both literally and figuratively have to travel into the dramatic outlying areas of coastal Wales as well as into the outlying areas of Welsh society.
Hinterland is the first TV mystery series based entirely in Wales. The main detective is DCI Tom Mathias (Richard Harrington) who comes to the coastal town of Aberystwyth, Wales, after working for 10 years with the Metropolitan Police in London. His team consists of DI Mared Rhys (Mali Harries) a local woman who had wanted Mathias’ position, DS Sian Owens (Hannah Daniel) and DC Lloyd Ellis (Alex Harries).
The series begins with a murder of an elderly woman, and Mathias arrives at the scene where he first meets his team before he has a chance to even report to the police station. Mathias and the other detectives have to learn to trust each other and learn each other strengths and weaknesses while working the case.
Eventually the case leads the investigators to a former children’s home at the waterfall called Devil’s Bridge. Adding to the atmosphere of the dramatic waterfall, there’s also some intriguing folklore associated with the waterfall that involves an old woman, a loaf of bread, and Satan. Mathias discovers that the reasons for the murder lie in the past of the children’s home as he uncovers the home’s secrets.
The personal lives of the detectives are not explored, but there are intriguingly brief glimpses into their present and past. As the lead detective, the series spends the most time with DCI Mathias. The DCI is a loner who seems to have some issues in his personal life. The reasons for his transfer to Wales from London are not explained, at least in series one. The issues surrounding the cases often force the detectives to travel to their own personal hinterland as they deal with their own reactions.
Filmed entirely on location in the county of Ceredigion, Wales, the winter landscape provides a haunting backdrop to the gothic story lines. Whether it’s the stark rolling hills, the dense forests, or the crashing waves on the shoreline, the Welsh countryside is an important part of the series and helps to give the series an ominous and dark feeling. Each scene of the series was filmed in two languages—Welsh and English. The Welsh language version of the series aired in Wales in 2013 as Y Gwyll which means “The Dusk.” The BBC aired the English-language Hinterland this past winter, and series 2 is in production.
This Welsh crime noir drama will appeal to those who enjoy mysteries of the dark and complicated type. A different case is solved in each of the four episodes.
Check the WRL catalog for Hinterland, Series 1
Take a journey back into the history of one of Scotland’s oldest cities in an interpretation of a classic Edinburgh ghost story. Author and illustrator, Ruth Brown, takes this old tale and updates it for a younger and more modern audience in an original way, just as she has done with many other British tales. The characters of the story, Tom and Becky, are tourists who are experiencing the ghost story for the first time right along with the readers. While sightseeing, they come across an interesting statue of a dog that sparks an adventure. They learn of companionship and loyalty as the tale of a dog and his master is told to them.
The framing of the story in this book is what is special. Children reading this story will be able to relate closely to the characters and appreciate the tale within the story just as Tom and Becky do. The structure of this story is more appropriate for slightly older children since a non-linear literary structure is being used. However, the illustrations and the content of the story are perfect for large-group sharing or personal reading. The truly fun fact about this book, though, is that children who read it will have a shared piece of history with anyone who has ever told a version of the legend of Greyfriar’s Bobby. The tale within the story is one that the reader can take and share with many others after they have finished the book.
Check the WRL catalog for The Ghost of Greyfriar’s Bobby.